Cognitively Reframing Coronavirus

cognitive reframing coronavirus
Dr Elaine Ryan
Written by Dr Elaine Ryan Psychologist and Founder of MoodSmith® Elaine obtained her Dr in Psychology from the University of Surrey and has worked in psychology for 20 years. Dr Ryan specialises in Intrusive Thoughts, OCD and anxiety-related conditions.

Cognitive reframing, also known as cognitive restructuring, is a psychological technique used to help you look at a situation differently. In light of the current global pandemic, I thought it would be useful to help you to use cognitive reframing with coronavirus.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl1

Viktor Frankl1 was a holocaust survivor. His quote is referencing that your ability to adapt and respond to a current stressor has a crucial impact on your emotional health.

You cannot change the fact that the world is facing coronavirus, but you can change how you feel about it and the impact that it has on you emotionally.

Cognitive reframing helps to give you a different perspective or another way to look at a problem. Even though the situation does not change, in that we are living with a global pandemic. How you feel about it depends on your frame of reference. Two people might feel very differently about the same situation, depending on how they view the problem.  

Having the ability to reframe the situation in a way that is helpful to you will also help you manage stress as you might have already read on my site that a perceived threat can cause anxiety.

What does Cognitive Reframing mean?

When you are presented with any situation, how you feel about it depends on the meaning that you give to it.

For example, let’s say I bought a new car. It’s two years old, and I’m delighted with it, out viewing it and polishing it every day. It means something good to me, something that I want to look after.

Then my friend calls over in her brand new BMW, straight out of the showroom with zero miles on the clock. I no longer want to show her my new car. Even though before she came over, it was new to me and I was happy. Now I’m thinking; it’s not new, I couldn’t afford a new one. Can you see how my mood shifted when I attributed a new meaning to my car purchase? This is an example of negative reframing where I was initially happy with my car and then reframed it based on seeing my friends new car.

With cognitive restructuring, I do not need to keep feeling bad; I can reframe my thoughts and the meanings that I give to events. In doing so, I change how my mood by using positive reframing.

Give coronavirus a different frame.

Your thoughts relating to coronavirus are almost more important than the actual pandemic, in terms of your ability to cope with Covid-19. 

How you react to and think about coronavirus are crucial to your well being.

If you are thinking

  • I will never cope with lockdown
  • I’m helpless
  • People are dangerous
  • I can’t survive staying indoors

These thoughts will help a direct impact on your mood. Your thoughts are not neutral, as explained in the following short video.

How to reframe your thoughts

You can label them without mulling them over as explained in this article

You can shine a spotlight on your thoughts and decide if they are valid or not, for example.

If you thought

I will never cope. Ask yourself, what situations have you already dealt with in your life? There will be many. Most adults have coped with loss, either through bereavement or divorce, coped with job losses and came out the other side.

You have a life time developing coping skills that are dismissed when you are stuck in the thought pattern that you cannot cope.

In the article that I referred to above I mention that 

Misery loves company. If you mull something bad over in your head, your brain will quickly link other instances that made you feel bad.

What I mean by that is that your brain likes to link up all the relevant details. So if you think that you cannot cope, you will not be able to remember and see all the times in your life that show you that you already have excellent coping skills.

Cognitive reframing I cannot cope would be

I have dealt with many things in my life, and I can get through the changes that are currently in my life.

While you must be alert to coronavirus and follow the guidelines issued by your country, these are the things that you cannot control. Reframing your thoughts relating to coronavirus are within your control. Choosing to reframe any unhelpful thought patterns will help you to mind your emotions during Covid-19.


Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist. If you have not read his book, I recommend it Man’s Search for Meaning

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